Edit: The company is now known as Stewart’s Lumber Wood Product
On Tuesday, 1 May 2012, I headed gleefully up to the UPS store. I had gone to USAA earlier that day to get a cashier’s check for $7,300, and I was ready to mail it. That magic time had finally come – Jessica and I were ordering our tiny house!
I paid something ridiculous like $28 to send the check to Slabtown Customs in Arkansas, when I could have mailed it USPS Priority for $5. But hey, this was the 50% deposit for our tiny house! I needed to do anything and everything necessary to get that check to the builder ASAP so our house would be built!
Before I mailed that check
Jessica and I had a couple discussions with the owner of Slabtown Customs – Scott Stewart – before we mailed off the $7,300 deposit check. We had seen his videos on YouTube, walk-throughs of houses he built. They looked fantastic, and the customers seemed to be happy with what they got.
We made a few basic decisions about the floorplan, but we hadn’t decided on anything big, like the exterior siding, the roof, etc. Scott was very good with talking me through the different options to make an educated decision. Very communicative.
After I mailed that check
I came home from the UPS store beaming, saying to Jessica, “We did it! We took the first step toward living in a tiny house!” We were plenty excited, but we were even more excited to hear from Scott after receiving our check.
3.5 weeks went by, and we had still heard nothing from Scott. He became completely unresponsive. It didn’t help matters that just days after Jessica blogged about sealing the deal, she got multiple emails from different people with unpleasant stories of working with Slabtown Customs. I said to Jessica, “We can’t believe everything we hear on the net; let’s just wait and see, yeah?”
We waited, but we got no message saying, “Thanks for the check!” or, “I got your check, and work will begin on X date.”
Words from others
Jessica was hearing from others that Scott was as much as 1 year late on delivery of their houses. One woman claimed to have asked for her money back, and a year after their house’s due date, she still hadn’t received it all. We also found this forum thread.
I don’t claim to know if any of the stories we heard were true, but they certainly made us much more uncomfortable when the next ‘event’ happened.
I called Scott to ask him if he had received the $7,300 check and what the status of the house was. Without answering those questions, he told me how his mother was in the hospital, and he was dedicating all of his energy to taking care of her.
Cool. I don’t really care, but good for him! (This couldn’t have been one of the unsolicited excuses others mentioned, could it?) He then said the he just had the ‘structure’ of our Tiny House done. [highlight]Naturally, I asked for pictures of the progress, since I didn’t feel like flying to Arkansas to look at it.[/highlight] Scott told me there was really nothing to see, to which I asked, “What about the ‘structure’ you just mentioned? Can you photograph that?”
He said he would by Monday (It was Saturday), and I went along my merry way. When Wednesday rolled around, and I still hadn’t received any photos, I got worried. I called him to ask what the hold-up was.
This time, he told me his father was terminal and in the hospital. I wished him and his father well, and he said he would get the photos to me the next day. (He later told me his father ‘got better’. Divine Intervention!)
When I gave Scott a full week to send photos and received none, Jessica and I decided it was time to call off this charade. I emailed Scott to let him know that I wanted to amicably end our professional relationship and be refunded our deposit.
[box type=”info” border=”full”]Keep in mind, this was on June 1 – a month after submitting a $7,300 payment.[/box]
The only reason I wanted to cancel this deal was that Scott offered up to me that he had accomplished work on the house, yet he refused to send photographic proof of this work. Scott kept saying that he needed to “find someone else to transfer our build to”, but he never even proved there was a build to begin with.
TL;DR – The middle, sucky part
I spent from 1 June 2012 – 1 August 2012 trying to get my money back. Scott had a whole slew of excuses ready for me. I had to involve the Better Business Bureau and the Arkansas State Attorney General (AG) to get real results. The Arkansas AG was my real savior, though.
Each time I sent an email to Scott stating, “You still haven’t sent photos, so I have no proof you’ve even purchased any materials,” he would respond with, “If you want photos, I’ll send them.” He never did.
I then put together a 17-page, bulletproof document, I don’t know what the AG investigator did, but he worked his magic, and convinced Scott to refund us our deposit.
I don’t trust anyone anymore. Well, it’s not that bad, but pretty close. As soon as anyone – whom I’m paying for a job – starts to make me think they don’t have my best interests at heart, I fire them. Whether that means firing Home Depot or firing Bob’s Insulation Service (there’s no way I’d ever use a service with such a name), I don’t put up with less than stellar business any more. I just don’t have to.
My personal advice is to not do business with Slabtown Customs. They have absolutely put out some products that made happy customers in the past, but that’s not the case presently.
I told Scott at the beginning of our communication that my main goal was to get this house built as quickly as possible. I didn’t mind that there were internet rumors of his failure to deliver, as long as he didn’t waste my time. He wasted exactly three months of my time, and I’m now building our tiny house by myself.
If anyone would like to see the 17-page document I put together in my defense (to get my deposit back), shoot me an email and I’ll give you the download link. If you are personally having issues with Scott as a builder, I’d highly suggest you contact the Arkansas State Attorney General.